This step brings with it a mountain of obstacles. Thankfully there is a community of agencies who seek to help navigate this mountain. The obstacles include language, transportation, medical care, jobs, schools, safe living conditions – the list goes on. Though these obstacles are daunting, the pathway to starting over often lies in the support from the local community who welcomes these refugees to their city.
Starting over is hard for anyone. Starting over alone is a near impossible task. Imagine if it were you or me. Let’s say a crisis broke out in your home country, and it impacted your family so significantly that you had to flee for your life to a neighboring country. You run from your home with your spouse and kids, with only the clothes on your back. You have no money, no cell phone, no home – and now you are on the run.
You finally arrive at a neighboring country and find a new home in a refugee camp. Your 10′ by 10′ hut is where you stay before you are given refugee status and eventually told where you will be sent to start over. Imagine the country you are assigned to is…. Nepal. So you and your family travel on a plane, land in Nepal, and are shown to your new apartment or hut. And now it’s up to you to start over.
If that was really your family, what would you want? What would you ultimately need? If it was me, I wouldn’t want someone to just come up and give me $100 and walk away. What I would want is for someone from Nepal, who has lived there and knows how life in this country works, to become my friend. I would want a family from Nepal, who is sympathetic to the situation my family is in, to come and get to know us and help us navigate all the obstacles that our family is up against.
I would want community. And so would you.
This is where local service providers and caring families become so significant to the starting over process for a refugee family. Some of these agencies are professionals, highly trained and skilled in the service they bring to a family. Medical professionals, placement agencies, professional educators, counselors, and pastors. But sometimes the most impactful person is just a normal family who is willing to step out to befriend another family.
These families give one of the greatest commodities we have: time. Time to get to know a refugee family. Time to help them think through the next steps necessary to start over. Time to love and care for a family that is significantly in need.
The starting over process for a refugee family is a striking parallel to the starting over process in our relationship with Christ. When we come to a new place of faith in Christ, we truly are starting a new life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God brings us new life – and we experience His love and wisdom through a community of His people around us.
So what can we do?
First: pray for families starting over in a new country. Pray that people will step out and give time, friendship, and community. Pray that God will remind each family of His nearness as they begin again.
Next: get involved. Find a local agency and come volunteer with them. Every agency that works with refugees can use more volunteers to help meet the needs of the families in their city. In addition to Project 658, here are some other agencies working with refugees in Charlotte:
Then: take a step of faith and get to know a refugee family in your city. Get to know their names and their story. They are families just like yours. They like to sit and have coffee and talk. They like to work and be productive. They want to provide for their families. Their kids like to play sports and have fun with friends.
Maybe you could be the connecting piece God uses to help them start over well in your city.